I recently was in West Africa on my dream trip of a lifetime.
The first five days were spent working to build and celebrate progress on a new college.
The last two days of the trip were vacation. The intent was to provide us with a much-needed, well-earned retreat after our work on the college.
An inviting, delicious meal was waiting for us when we arrived late, after a challenging journey of vehicle breakdowns, panic attacks, and other delays.
We were hungry. The warm meal hit the spot. It was by far the best meal we had all week.
It rained most of the evening. The drizzly ambiance fit our cozy mood and desire to hunker down.
We ate our dinner by candlelight under a shelter. The sounds of chimp chatter in the background added playful suspense to our retreat. It was the most romantic place I have ever been.
And it was the first place on the trip to have wine on the menu.
The group split a bottle, and then a few more.
Wine seemed to go perfectly with the scene. Wine made the table-scape look even prettier in the candlelight.
Seeing wine felt like a big exhale from all the emotion we experienced that week. My anxiety was on constant high-alert, until this magical evening of respite, in the quiet and stillness of the jungle.
My travel crew had now become my friends.
And…I wanted a glass of wine.
I wanted a glass of wine so bad.
I wanted to take part in the drinking.
I wanted the extra.
I spent a few minutes thinking about this, because the urge, for the first time in a long time, was strong, overpowering, demanding, incessant.
I forgot what it felt like, until I instantly remembered.
I was reminded when I was in Mexico and accidentally drank tequila after five months of sobriety a few years ago. The taste of tequila turned into another year of drinking, before I quit again, for the final time.
There is something about being on vacation, and out of the country, that feels like drinking won’t count.
Like what happens in Vegas.
Or something like that.
Like it’s so dramatic to decide to be sober for your whole life. Even on out-of-the-country vacations, where it doesn’t really count.
At over one and a half years sober, it is rare that I feel a craving, at all. It’s been so long since I’ve wrestled with the myth of moderation: Just one glass.
Maybe two. No more.
What a lie!
If my lips had tasted that wine, the rest of the trip would have turned into my obsession with it.
How could I jeopardize the trip of a lifetime, all for the taste of alcohol? It would surely leave me embarrassed, ashamed, and physically ill. As it always has.
Knowing this, I still wanted wine. The moment didn’t pass.
I went to bed.
That is how it is sometimes.
It’s not always easy. There is not always a silver lining shining in the middle of temptation.
I went to bed fighting the urge to drink, as I did in the beginning of my sobriety.
Most of the time, I am grateful for my sobriety.
Most of my life, I am not resisting anything.
Most of the time, I welcome being a teetotaler.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, I welcome my healthy lifestyle.
I value my clear-headed mornings.
I appreciate my intentional daily routines.
I am most proud of my improved relationships with myself and others.
Every once in a while, however, there is the white-knuckle, grit-my-teeth resistance for something I think I want.
I wanted a glass of romantic wine in the dark and rainy jungle.
I now know better, and I do not want the effects of alcohol.
I have experienced alcohol’s demise a million times before, and it has only brought me misery and suffering.
It has brought me increased depression and anxiety. Bloat and hangovers. Friction with my highest self and conflict with treasured loved ones.
I did not want that at all, yet, I wanted to dip my tongue back into the innocent glass of wine, out of country, around a fire, with new friends. Because it’s so romantic.
I knew this feeling was only going to grow. I decided not to entertain it any longer, and I just went to bed.
I woke up grateful and never had another thought about it.
The only reason I was on the dream trip of my life was because I got sober. I saved enough money by being sober to pay for it. I reduced anxiety about traveling across the country by ditching the drink. I gained courage to put my dreams into action and not just talk about them, because of the confidence I gained by quitting alcohol.
And here I was, pining for a glass of wine.
Here’s the truth about that glass of wine hallucination:
I did not want one.
One would never be enough.
I would always want more.
I have learned this lesson for good, and even in my imagination where I just casually sip on one glass of wine, I know it’s not enough.
The minute I open my mind to the possibility, I am already full of greed and scarcity.
I do not want anyone else to touch the bottle. I want to order more bottles, before I even take my first sip. I want to hide and keep all the wine to myself. I do not want to share.
This does not enhance the extra connection I was seeking.
I obsess over how much I am drinking. How much more I can drink? How much do I love drinking? How free and buzzed am I? How wild and drunk and crazy do I feel, and how much do I love that?
This is not the relaxation I was seeking. This is mania.
I would feel like a big, tough rebel, like a strong, independent woman who can get drunk all by herself.
I would certainly fall down on the path to my treehouse. I would stumble to bed, if I made it up the stairs in one piece.
This is not extra luxury.
Panic would strike at some point in the night. I would be embarrassed. I would start hating myself. I would not want to face my travel group in the morning. I would feel like a loser. A failure. I feel that heart-sinking disappointment, in addition to a big hangover.
I would wish I could throw up to feel better. Wishing to throw up has got to be the worst feeling. No one likes to throw up. Its awful. But here I would be, hoping for the best, which would be to hang my head in a toilet and call that a success.
I didn’t give in to the urge.
I know better.
I have been to this rodeo before, as they say.
I am 600 days sober.
I have gotten good at resisting the urge.
It was a shock to have been hit with a craving so strong, though. It humbled me. It reminded me how strong my life-long conditioning around alcohol is.
Alcohol tried its best to ruin my life, and it succeeded for a while.
I have friends who have died from it.
And still. That bullsh*t myth of moderation snuck up on me.
The myth of moderation really is a lie. Moderation is not my goal and will never be my goal. None is the right amount for me, and I know that.
I am happy and comfortable with none. I have peace of mind about that. The thought of tasting wine and jeopardizing all that I have worked for doesn’t appeal to me.
However, I am not perfect, only human. Old habits die hard. An old craving can sneak up and start lying to me at any time.
Being sober and staying sober is not a fight most of the time. It is a welcome opportunity to question my beliefs and challenge my thinking.
Sobriety allows me to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
It’s the delusional urge to have a drink, despite everything I know about the illusion of alcohol, that pushes me and keeps me close to my clients.
Even though I am a recovery coach and I help people get sober, I am human and a person in recovery, too.
I love learning about how to support and educate people ready to ditch the drink. I share my imperfect stories because it is the honest connection that lets others know they are not alone.
For me, that has made all the difference.
You are not alone, and the cravings do pass. You will never regret not drinking.